Despite the impressive art collections of the Philippine government’s National Museum and Metropolitan Museum, and those found in the private collections of the Ayala Museum, Lopez Museum, Vargas Museum, and Yuchengco Museum; the Ateneo Art Gallery is recognized as the premier collection of modern and contemporary art in the country. Housed at the Areté in the Ateneo de Manila University campus, along Katipunan Avenue, the Ateneo Art Gallery started when artist and educator, Fernando Montojo Zóbel de Ayala (1924–1984), donated more than 200 artworks from his personal collection to the Ateneo, in the 1960s. And now it is the home of more than a thousand paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints, videos, and installations.
In 2017, the Ateneo Art Gallery held a special exhibition from its collection, entitled “Ligalig: Art in a Time of Turmoil” (unrest). In this exhibit, protest art was the focal point, just like the AAG’s 2012 collection exhibit “Beyond Protest.” This protest art is called Social Realism, which finds its roots in the Realist Movement in 1850s France. Artists, such as Honoré-Victorin Daumier (1808-1879) and Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), were tired of the soulless and controlled Academic painting, the romantic heroism of Historical painting, the pomp and pageantry of Portraiture, the fantasy of Mythical painting, the exoticism of Orientalism, and the redundancy of Religious art. Inspired by the political work of Francisco José de Goya (1746-1828), these artists wanted to present on their canvases the reality of their world, which lies beyond the wealthy homes of the rich and powerful. In portraying the hardship in lives of the common folk, these artists would create a Modern Art genre that would now be called Social Realism.
In the Philippines, Social Realism is often connected with the 1960s, specifically of the protest art against the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos (served from 1965-1986). However, some of the first Social Realist works can be attributed to 1890s steel foundry paintings by Juan Luna(1857-1899) and the 1928 Expressionist painting “The Builders” by Victorio Edades (1895 -1985).In Martino Abellana’s painting “The Bystander,” the artist portrays a laborer standing pensively, with a shanty house in the background. The title suggests that the man is silently watching the world go by, and has no power to change his lot.
Martino Alcoseba Abellana (1914–1988) is often called “The Dean of Cebuano Painters”. Born in the town of Carcar, to an artistic family, whose grandfather Gonzalo, father Teofilo, and brothers Ramon, Sindulfo, and Manuel were all noted sculptors. Known as “Noy Tinong”, Abellana took his formal art education at the School of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines (U.P.), inManila. While studying at the university, Martino helped his brother design the Caracar Rotunda, in 1937. After graduating, Abellana returned to Cebu, and began teaching there. Along with his fellow U.P. alumnus, Prof.JulianNavarroJumalon (1909-2000), Abellanafoundedthe fine arts program at University of the Philippines College Cebu. Aside from the legacy of helping create the next generations of Cebuano artists, Martino married Natividad Castillo Noel, and had 10 children.
In modern social realism, artists did not have to portray their subjects as naturalistic as possible. Painters and sculptors would infuse other modernist styles, such as Expressionism or Surrealism, to enhance the emotional impact of their message. In the case of Angelito Antonio, his earlier experimentations on Expressionism, as seen in his work “Dying Bird,” gave way to a Cubist style that enhanced the tension and isolation of the destitute, as seen in his works “Magbubulaklak” (The Flower Vendor) and “Mother and Child with Street Vendors.”
Angelito Antonio (born 1939) is a painter from Bulacan, who as an expressionist painter, however his evolution in art had moved towards sublime cubist works and abstraction. Antonio took his formal art studies at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), where he met and latermarry his colleague Norma Belleza, and has three children with her. His painting “Dying Bird” has been considered as a masterpiece of Philippine painting, by the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas. In 1970, he was honored the Thirteen Artist Award by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). In 1984, he was also honored with the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award by the City of Manila.
Artists would not limit themselves to a single medium, as they would employ different art media and techniques to create the emotive content of the image. In the works of BenCab, the artist would employ an acrylic wash effect to create a haunting image of poverty in his “Mag-ina” (Mother and Child), and a pen and ink dark cross-hatching technique to emphasize desperation in “The Family that Starves Together, Stays Together.”
Benedicto “Bencab” Reyes Cabrera (born 1942) is a painter and printmaker, who graduated from the University of the Philippines. He first started as an illustrator, until he was convinced by his peers to pursue a full-time painting career. Cabrera’s earlier works were expressive dark images of the Philippine poor, then he started moving on to paintings that used images of photographs of the American Occupation of the Philippines (1898-1946). In 1968, Cabrera met a married the British journalist, Caroline Kennedy, and he moved to England, where he exhibited his art in the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands. Upon his return to the Philippines, Cabrera moved to Baguio City, and immersed himself into the culture of the Cordillera people. Cabrera worked with many Baguio artists, and helped establish the Baguio Arts Guild. In the 1990s, Cabrera put up the artist’s haven called Tam-awan Village, in Baguio, and he helped in the organization of the Baguio Arts Festival. In 2006, Cabrera was honored as a National Artist, and afterward he put up the BenCab Museum in Baguio City. In 2009, he was conferred an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree by the University of the Philippines.
The colleges and universities have always been a hotbed of dissenting thought, where the idealistic youth air out their disenchantment with the power of the political and economic elite amidst the backdrop of squalid poverty and inequality. This progressive idealism of the Filipino youth was further influenced by the infiltration of Communist doctrine in the 1950s and 1960s, leading to the formation of the Maoist nationwide student body of the Kabataang Makabayan (Nationalist Youth), by José María Canlás Sison (born 1939). Students growing up witnessing the poverty and suffering of the 1950s and 1960s Reconstruction Era that followed the devastation of World War II (1938-1945) were drawn to the ideals of equality in a socialist society. Fine Arts students, like Adi Santos, Al Manrique and Nil Doloricon, were creating works that spoke of the plight of the farmers and factory works, and tried to bring dignity to their bleak existence, such as in Santos’ work “Mga Manggagapas” (The Harvesters) and Manrique’s “Harvest”Artists would create more paintings about the state of different Philippine laborers and other common folk, including the rage of the factory works in Doloricon’s “Welga” (Strike), and maltreatment and even murder of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) in Santos’s work “Alay sa mga Bagong Bayani” (A Tribute to the New Heroes).
Pablo Baen-Santos aka Adi Baens Santos (born 1943) is a known social realist, whose paintings were inspired by his exposure to the ills of society during his stint as a photographer for the Manila Times. In his first exhibit in 1974, he also founded the KAISAHAN (Unity) art group of social realists. Santos has garnered many awards for his paintings and photography, but his highest accolade was the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Thirteen Artists award, in 1990.
Alfredo “Al” Manrique (1949-2006) is a visual artist, activist and pioneer in Philippine digital art. Manrique first took architecture at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) College of Architecture and Fine Arts (CAFA). However, his frequent interactions with the fine arts students and professors and his participation in the student protests against the Marcos government convinced Manrique to pursue a career in act, to express his own disillusion with the government and society. Manrique would go on to work in painting, printmaking, photography, and finally digital art, during its basic introduction in the late 1980s. Whatever medium that Manrique would employ, each piece was a powerful commentary of Philippine politics and society, and he would often lend his services to aid cause oriented non-government organizations, and even served as and system integration consultant for UNDP-PSDN (United Nations Development Programme-Philippine Sustainable Development Network). His early experimentations lead to his co-founding of the e@rt Philippines community of digital artists, and his work as the director of Cyberspace, Inc. and MISNet, as well as the digital consultant of the newspaper Manila Standard.
Leonilo “Neil” Ortega Doloricon (born 1957) is a painter, who is more known for his social realist prints. After graduation from the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts (CFA), Doloricon worked as an illustrator for various dailies, such as the Manila Times. Doloricon started teaching at the CFA, and served as its dean for a time. In his service to the university, Doloricon received the 1999 Jose and Asuncion Joya Professorial Chair; the 2004 Guillermo Tolentino Professorial Chair; and the Fernando Amorolo Professorial Chair both in 1994 and in 2011. In 1990, Doloricon was honored the Thirteen Artist Award by the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
When President Ferdinand Marcos (1917-1989) was reelected in 1969, the was a growing unrest around the country, with allegations of corruption and human rights violations of the government against the people. In 1968, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was established by José María Sison, and in 1969 the armed Communist insurgent group the New People’s Army was formed by Bernabe “Kumander Dante” Buscayno (born 1943). With the armed conflict in the rural areas, increasingly violent protests of students and works, arson of public and private establishments, failed assassination attempts on the First Lady Imelda Marcos (born 1929) and Minister of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile Sr. (born 1924), and the bombing of the Liberal Party rally at Plaza Miranda led Marcos to declare Martial Law in September, 1972. Soon after, the Philippine Constabulary started arresting dissidents, and stories of the confiscation of property, torture and summary executions were whispered through the grapevine.
Social Realist artists were frightened of government retaliation, as some left the country for asylum abroad, while those who remained had to change the tone and style of their works, to avoid persecution. Artists, such as Al Manrique and Danny Dalena, still worked in Social Realism, but create vignettes of Philippine society without the direct symbols of protest. Manrique speaks of the aspirations of the poor with “Boy Hunkering a Paper Boat” and “Small Girl in front of Posters,”the displacement of farming communities by the rapid urbanization of cities with “Farmer and his wife together looking at a background of tall buildings,” and finally in “Man with Crocodile”a man quietly looking away from a crocodile in front of him as an allegory to the self-imposed blindness toward corruption. Dalena in turn paints scene he observes in the streets and building of Manila, as a commentary of the state of spiritual decay of the people. In Dalena’s “Old Man” from his Quiapo series, he paints a shirtless man puffing away on a cigarette in public, without any care what people think of him. And in Dalena’s “Tulog Talo” (The Loser’s Sleep) from his Jai Alai series, he features a man who falls asleep in frustration after gambling away all his money by betting on the Basque ball game.
Jesus Danilo Echavaria Dalena (1942) was born in Laguna; and he was a humorous social realism, during the Martial Law years (1972-81). He first started his career by illustrating editorial cartoons for the Free Press and Asia-Philippines Leader. Dalena married a fellow artist, Julie Lluch, whom they had three children. He has also appeared in one of the films by his daughter,Sari Raissa Lluch Dalena, which has earned him a page in IMBD (Internet Movie Database). In 1972, he was given the Thirteen Artist Award.
Social Realism during Martial Law (1972-1981) used a lot of subtle symbolism to speak of social issues, but lack any obvious images that directly attack the government, for artists to avoid arrest and persecution as a dissident by the government. Ato Habulan would often use religious symbolismas his visual vihicles for social commentary. Hinting at the dismantling of the Philippine military’s weapons in Habulan’s “Dapithapon ng Dambuhala” (Sunset for the Monster), the artist shows a parishioner looking away from a painting the Archangel Michael casting Lucifer from heaven, while broken parts of a tank and mortars are floating around the fighting figures. In Habulan’s “Magnificat,” the artist takes the concept of the “Canticle of Mary,” the prayer of praise and submission to God that the Blessed Virgin Mary had spoken in her Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth (Gospel of Luke1:46–55), as metaphor of how the common folk have submitted themselves to silence despite the murder of loved ones and destruction of property by corrupt provincial officials.
Renato “Ato” Rentoria Habulan (born 1953) is a Social Realist painter, from Tondo, Manila. Displaying an exceptional talent at a young age, Habulan was able to obtain a scholarship to take his formal art studies at the University of the East UE). While as a student in UE, Habulan took up portraiture under Virginia Jacinto, and a glass blowing course at the National Science and Development Board. Habulan has been active with cause-oriented organization, and has been active with the artist activist groupsConcerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP)and “Kaisahan” Unity).Habulan has incorporated symbols of Philippine indigenous communities, religious iconography, and even fictional characters as allegories towards Philippine social issues. Habulan has exhibited locally and internationally, including representing te Philippines in the 1995 Cheju Biennale, in South Korea. For his body of work, Habulan was honored with the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Thirteen Artist Award.
The Philippines was caught between the threat of possible nuclear war of the Cold War (1947-1991) between the militaries of the capitalist nations of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the communist nations of the Warsaw Pact. This hanging dread of the effect of nuclear radiation was aggravated with the construction of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in 1976. Accidents in nuclear power plants like the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster added further to these fears. In Renato Habulan’s poster “Nukleyar!,” shows a mushroom cloud rising from a nuclear power plant’s cooling towers, and reigning fire and radiation on the people below. While Egai Fernandez’s painting scroll “Pandora ng Karunungan”(Pandora of Knowledge), the artist compares the research of the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) to the Greek myth of Pandora, whose curiosity made her opened a box that unleashed evils and sufferings upon the world.
Edgar “Egai” Talusan Fernandez (born 1955) is a renowned social realist, who made his mark during the Marcos’ regime’s Martial Law era. A graduate of the PhilippinesWomen’s University College of Music and Fine Arts, Fernandez started actively painting in 1974, and slowly developed his classically rendered images in juxtaposed layers of scenes in the background montage and Filipiñana symbols, which include the ancient script called the Baybayin. Frenandez’ activism has led to his co-founding the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), and joining other cause-oriented groups such as Center for the Advancement of Young Artists and “Kaisahan“. Aside from participating in activist organizations, Fernandez has be an active member and officer of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP), the Christian Art Society of the Philippines, AGOS KULAY (a watercolorist group), and the National Committee on Visual Art of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA). For all his work, Fernandez was awarded the 13 Artists Award by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), and the Araw ng Maynila Award for Painting in 2006.
Echoing the sentiments of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the late 1960s to 1980s, artists took to their canvases to extol the virtues of womanhood, demand equality for women, and condemn the abuse of women. In the painting“Krista,” Adi Santos compares the Filipino women’s struggle justice and equality to that of the Passion of Jesus Christ. With an equally powerful symbolist paint, Imelda Cajipe-Endaya compares the issues of “Babae” (girl/woman) to the myth of the banana. In the story, the banana plant grew from the buried body of a maiden, who was killed for a loving a man that her parents disapproved of. The use of this myth is as an allegory to how many women are no given the power to decide for their own lives.
Imelda Cajipe-Endaya (born 1949) is writer, curator, painter, printmaker and installation artist; whose creative expressions focus on Philippine identity and women’s issues. Cajipe-Endaya work extends to helping found the women’s art group, KASIBULAN (Growth). Cajipe-Endaya has represented the Philippines in various international exhibitions, and has also won several awards abroad. Cajipe-Endaya was honored by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) the Thirteen Artists award in 1990, and the Philippines’ One Hundred Culture Heroes in 1998. Other major awards received by Cajipe-Endaya are the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan by the City of Manila in 1998, the Natividad Fajardo GalangALIWW Honors for Women in the Arts by the Ateneo de Manila in 2008, and the Ani ng Dangal by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in 2009.Cajipe-Endaya was also one of the co-founders of PANANAW Philippine Journal of Visual Arts, in which she was its first editor.
Other issues that artists would tackle are the people’s right to own land. In Egai Fernandez’s poster “Our Lands are Marked for Destruction . . . And We with Them,” the artist speaks out against the plantation, logging firms and mining companies that are pushing out indigenous people from their ancestral lands, and effectively destroying their culture. In Papu de Asis’poster “The People’s Struggle,” the artist shows how the urban poor are evicted from their shanty towns, for the beautification projects of the government.
Papo De Asis (1949-2005)is a noted social realist, who was part of the art group KAISAHAN (Unity), which was very critical of the government of President Ferdinand Marcos (1965-1986). Despite his critical stance against the dictatorship, De Asis was selected as one of the restoration artists under Prof. Antonio Dumlao (1912-1983), to work on the paintings of Juna Luna (1857-1899) at the presidential palace of Malacañang. In 1990, De Asis emigrated to the United States of America, where he continued his activist painting. There he founded two socially critical groups, the People’s Artist and Habi Ng Kalinangan. While in America, De Asis continued to represent the Philippines in various exhibitions around the world.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the population of OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) began to rise, and the government addressed the worker’s issues by merging the National Seamen Board, Overseas Employment Development Board, and the Bureau of Employment Services into the the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), in 1978. This boom in the export of labor brought in much needed capital to an ailing economy that was weaken by graft and corruption, as well as the 1970s International Energy Crisis. Despite the promise of sending dollars home, many families were broken up, with children growing up without one or both parents. Soon, cases of abuse and even the murder of OFWs started to trickle back home, creating great fear of the loved ones living abroad. In Ofelia Gelvezon-Tequi’s painting “The Second Joyful Mystery,” the artist alludes to the rare instances that an OFW is able to return home for the holidays as joyful and blessed, to the Rosary’s mystery of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth (Gospel of Luke 1:39–56). In Antipas Delotavo’s painting “Ang Paglalakbay” (The Journey), a laborer looks on at a line of people walking hand-in-hand in the exodus out of the Philippines.
Ofelia Lucas Gelvezon-Tequi (born 1942) is writer, social realist painter and printmaker; who originally hails from the Province of Iloilo, and currently lives in Limeuil, France. Gelvezon earned her Bachelor in Fine Arts and English at the University of the Philippines (U.P.), and would continue her advanced studies in the arts at the Regge Accademia di Belle Arti de Roma in Italy and at the Pratt Institute of New York, USA. Returning to the Philippines, Gelvezon would teach at in UP, where she met the French instructor, Marc Tequi, whom she married and subsequently relocate with in Paris, to raise their family. In Paris, Gelvezon-Tequi would work at the Atelier of the printmakers American Jean Lodge (born 1941) and Argentinian Angelica Caporaso (born 1928),and Frenchwoman Françoise Bricaut (born 1938), and Patrick Degouy’s L’atelier de Taille Douce. Gelvezon-Tequi would move from Paris, to Manila, then Hong Kong and Hanoi, before finally settling in Limeuil. In her travels, Gelvezon-Tequi would exhibit and garner critical acclaim for her Pop Art inspired vignettes of Filipino life. Earning several awards in local competitions, Gelvezon-Tequi would be later honored with the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Thirteen Artists Award in 1972, the 1985 Quatrieme Mention of the XVIII Salon Ile de France at Bourg-la-Reine, the 2002 Michiko Takamatsu Prize in Japan, and the 2014 Natividad Galang Fajardo Honors for Visual Arts from the Ateneo de Manila.
Antipas Polines Delotavo Jr. (born 1954) is a social realist painter, who graduated from the Philippine Women’s University (PWU). Delotavo’s paintings were first inspired by his indignation of the human rights abuses and corruption that plagued the Marcos government, in the 1970s, which started with his first solo exhibit featuring portraits of anonymous people from the streets of Manila. Delotavo is also a founding member of the social realist group, Kaisahan (Unity). Delotavo’s surreal and witty imagery has received such critical accolade, as he has exhibited his works at home and abroad. Because of his, Delotavo has also garnered awards such as the Garbo sa Bisaya Awards by Viva ExCon in 2012, the Araw ng Maynila Patnubay ng Sining sa Pintura in 2005, 100 Alumni of the Century from the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City in 2004,the 13 Artist Award of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in 1990 and the Hall of Fame in the Gallery Genesis Kulay sa Tubig Annual watercolor competitions in 2004.
In 1981, Pres. Marcos officially lifted Martial Law, upon the insistence of the USA President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) and Pope John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtyła, 1920-2005), who was slated to visit the Philippines on that year for beatification of the first Filipino martyr then saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz (1600-1637). With the lifting of Martial Law, artists became a little bolder. And in 1983, there was a national outcry on the assassination of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. (1932-1983), and the people took to the streets blaming Marcos for the senator’s death. Artists were now freely expressing their feelings, as thousands of people protested and demanded for change with an election. Egai Fernandez commemorates this new found voice of the people with “The Year to Remember,” where several yellow cloths stand prominently against the darkness of Martial Law and the blood soaked cloths in the background. The choice of the color yellow was based on Sen. Aquino’s use of the 1973 song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando and Dawn, which symbolized to the senator the Filipino people’s acceptance of him, even after being in exile in the USA for three years.
Due to mounting opposition protest and a challenge from American media,on November 1985, Pres. Marcos declared a Snap Election to be held on February 1986. Running against Marcos was Aquino’s widow, Corazon C. Aquino (1933-2009). During the campaign and election proper, numerous accounts of vote buying, intimidation and violence from the police, military, and groups allied to Pres. Marcos had the press dub the elections strife with Guns, Goons, and Gold. The rage over these cases of human rights violations and corruption is captured in Anna Fer’s poster “Oppose State Terrorism,” where images police brutality against the protestors is captured in a black and red illustration. Another story that shocked the nation was the 1985 murder of the Italian missionary Fr. Tulio Favali, in the province of North Cotabato. Fr. Favali was accused to be a communist sympathizer by the Norberto Manero Jr. Manero was a member of a military sponsored vigilate group, called the Ilaga Group, which was under the government sponsored Integrated Civilian Home Defense Forces. Favali was shot twentytwo times and his motorcycle burned, while Marero ate bits of the priest’s brains in front of the townspeople. This gruesome event is captured in Fer’s painting “Favali at iba pang Biktima” (Favali and the Other Victims).
Anna Fer (Anna Policarpio Ferrazinni-Mangahas, born 1941) is a social realist painter, from Pasay City. Her family would move to Davao City, where she studied at the Immaculate Conception College, before returning to Manila and completing her studies at the Holy Ghost College. Having an interest in the arts, Fer would take several painting courses at the University of the Philippines (U.P.), and eventually finish a graduate course at the UP Asian Studies at the Asian Center. Fer also worked on several publications, such as the 1983 “Kudaman” project of the French anthropologist Nicole Revel-McDonald on the Tagbanua of Palawan.
While both Pres. Marcos and Corazon Aquino were declaring themselves as the winners of the election, Marcos’ Vice Chief of Staff, General Fidel V. Ramos (born 1928), and Minister of National Defense Enrile were plotting a coup d’état against Marcos. When the plan was discovered, Pres. Marcos ordered the military to capture the dissenters. Fearing for their lives, Ramos and Enrile called to the opposition and declaring their loyalty to Aquino. This led to a call for people to march to the military and police camps Aguinaldo and Crame, where the defectors were holed up. With around 500,000 people filling the streets, which deterred the attack of the government forces, and causing more members of the military and police to defect to side of Ramos and Enrile. This is called the 1985 People’s Power Revolution, where Corazon Aquino was sworn into office as the 11th President of the Republic of the Philippines, while Pres. Marcos and his cronies were whisked from the presidential place to Hawaii by the American government. After all the jubilation of disposing of the dictator, people were soon disenchanted the corruption that would arise from the Aquino government, including many personalities jostling for government positions. This new set of presidential cronies are humorously captured in Lazaro Soriano’s “Jack en Poy” (Rock, Paper, Scissors), as people stand above the masses trying to gain favor from Pres. Aquino, who stands nonchalantly in the center.
Lazaro “Aro” Salamat Soriano (born 1943) is a painter, sculptor, art restorer, from Manila. Soriano first exposure to the create disciplines began when he was a child actor, but didn’t stay too long the film industry. In his 20s, Soriano would travel through Europe, and the collections of classical and modern art in the museums of Paris inspire him to enter into the art disciplines. Soriano took odd jobs while studying at the Institato de Cultural Hispanica, in Spain. Returning to the Philippines, Soriano was first painting in a Constructivist style, but the longer he stayed, the more he was inspired to create images with a clear Filipino theme. Covering a wide array of subject matter, Soriano would interpret Filipino folk songs into painting, social realist themes, or even endemic animals. Soriano would also branch into terracotta sculpture, which also reflected his renewed Philippine aesthetic. Aside from painting, Soriano would teach at the Philippine Women’s University (PWU), and influence the next generations of artists. In 1992, Soriano was honored with the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Thirteen Artist Award.
In the years to follow, more presidents would hold power in the halls of Malacañang Palace, and the social realists would find more issues to speak out against. Some artists would look out into the annals of history, and try to draw its stories of heroism to inspire the viewers, or open old would to tell the people that they should never forget the lessons of the past. In Al Manrique’s allegory to the armed struggle in “Boy Sitting on Ledge,” the artist features a young lad looking at the distance as the ghosts of heroes of the Katipunan Revolution (1896-1898), against the Spanish (1565-1898) and American (1898-1946) occupation of the Philippines, march by. Brenda Fajardo takes a humorous approach with her tarot themed “Makaalis kaya si Huwan at Mariya sa Ilalim ng Anino ni Samuel Aguila?” (Can Juan and Maria get away from the Shadow of Sam the Eagle?), where she poses the question to the people about our continuing reliance on America, despite being independent since 1946.
Brenda Villanueva Fajardo (born 1940) originally did not plan a career in the arts, as she had graduated with a degree in agriculture for the U.P. Los Baños campus in 1959. However, her thrust into the art world was pushed when she took her master’s degree in art education at the University of Wisconsin in 1967. Fajardo started teaching art at the Ateneo de Manila and the College of Holy Spirit, while she was experimenting in her painting and printmaking. Soon she developed her Tarot themed paintings, which she is most known for. In the 1970s, Fajardo joined the Philippine Education Theater Association (PETA), and work both on stage and backstage as a set and costume designer. She completed her doctorate in Art Studies at the U.P. Diliman campus in 1997, and soon became one of the faculty. She also is noted for being one of the co-founders of the Philippine Art Educators Association (PAEA), Kababaihan sa Sining at Bagong Sibol na Kamalayan (KASIBULAN), the Baglan Art and Culture Initiatives for Community Development (BAGLAN), and the Dalubhasaan sa Sining at Kultura (DESK). Throughout her career, Fajardo has won many awards with the most notable as the Thirteen Artists Award of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in 1992, the Gawad Chancellor for Best Visual Art Creation by the U.P. in 1996, Philippines’ One Hundred Culture Heroes by the CCP in 1998.
Social realism is still a dominant style in Philippine contemporary art, as long as the artists still perceive the injustices that proliferate in our surroundings. Many on the younger artists have created their own approaches to Social Realism, often rendering images of their concerns as if in a nightmare, the Surrealist view of our times. And in the next article, modern and contemporary Surrealism will be explored in the Ateneo Art Gallery collection.